This is the Astros final season in the National League. And since I was asked to provide a Fourth of July holiday post, I thought I would like back at some of the Astros games played on the holiday. There have been some memorable games, and some not so memorable. And on at least one instance, there were some real fireworks between the Astros and the Reds.
10. July 4, 1991:
This Astros team went 65-97 on the season, and it was pretty bad. Yet this is, in many ways, my favorite Astros team. Jeff Bagwell and Luis Gonzalez were rookies. Craig Biggio had just been moved to second base. Ken Caminiti was settling into third base and Steve Finley was getting consistent playing time in centerfield. And on this date, the Astros went to San Francisco and beat the Giants 14-6 behind the pitching of a very young Daryl Kile.
9. July 4, 1998
I would argue that this team, which went 102-60 on the season, was better than the 2005 squad that went to the World Series. Bagwell and Biggio were in their prime. Moises Alou was in his first season with the team. Billy Wagner was lights out in the bullpen. Shane Reynolds, Mike Hampton and Jose Lima were the top three starters, and Randy Johnson would join the team at the trade deadline. But on this day, Hampton and the Astros lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks by the score of 7-4.
8. July 4, 1986
This game was literally a preview of the NLCS as Nolan Ryan took the Shea Stadium mound to challenge Dwight Gooden. The Mets, as they would in the playoffs, got the win, defeating the Astros 2-1 behind a complete game performance from Gooden.
7. July 4, 1962
This must have been a miserable day to be a Houston baseball fan. This was the first major league season for the then Colt .45s, and the team played its games in Colt Stadium, a place that offered absolutely no shade. So of course the Colt .45s and Pirates played a doubleheader, and of course the Colt 45s lost both games.
6. July 4, 1965
This was the very first Fourth of July major league baseball game to be played indoors as the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 inside the Astrodome. The winning pitcher for the Astros was Claude "Frenchy" Raymond, who just happened to come from Quebec, Canada. 5. July 4, 1976
In this Bicentennial Year contest, the Astros traveled to Cincinnati where Larry Dierker was hit with the 7-2 loss. Lots of teams lost to the Reds that season, including the New York Yankees who were swept in the World Series.
4. July 4, 2005
The Astros had been left for dead in May (remember the infamous Chronicle gravestone), but they had begun the long trek back to relevancy. On this July 4th one Roy Oswalt pitched a complete game as the Astros defeated the Padres 4-1 (Craig Biggio would have a three-run homer in the game). This was the Astros fourth win in July, a month where they would go 22-7, and the momentum swept them through the rest of the season and into the World Series.
3. July 4, 1972
Larry Dierker went the distance as the Astros defeated the Pirates 4-1 in the Astrodome. This was more than just a victory for Dierker, however, as with the win, the Astros moved to within a half-game of first place.
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2. July 4, 1980
The Astros lost this game in Cincinnati by an 8-1 score. But the game is notable for several other reasons, chief among them being that when Nolan Ryan's strike out of Cesar Geronimo was the 3000th strikeout of Ryan's career. Geronimo, a former Astro, was also the 3000th strikeout of Bob Gibson.
1. July 4, 1979
This was the season the Astros shocked the baseball world. Behind the pitching of J.R. Richard, Joe Niekro, Ken Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, and Vern Ruhle, the Astros shot out to a commanding lead in the NL West and looked to be running away with the division. But then came this holiday series in Cincinnati against the Reds. Reds ace Tom Seaver predicted the Astros would sink like a lead balloon. And there were fireworks during this game after Andujar and Reds pitcher Bill Bonham exchanged bean balls. Reds third baseman Ray Knight got so pissed off that while out on the field, he challenged the entire Astros dugout, at which point Cesar Cedeno leapt onto the field. Knight and Cedeno threw punches which actually connected, and both were ejected from the game. The Astros won the game 3-2, to take a 10.5 game lead over the Reds, but the Astros soon went into a slump and missed out on the playoffs.